A Declaration Of Parentage & Parental Responsibility – What’s The Difference?

A Declaration Of Parentage

In her latest blog, Trainee Solicitor Leonnie Watson discusses the difference between A Declaration Of Parentage & Parental Responsibility…

What Is Parental Responsibility?

Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 defines Parental Responsibility (PR) as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilitiesPreview (opens in a new tab) and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.”

In practical terms, PR is the power to make important decisions in relation to the child, such as consenting to medical treatment, what school they attend and changing their name.

Who Has Parental Responsibility?

A child’s birth mother automatically has PR for the child upon their birth. A child’s father who is married to or in a civil partnership with the mother also automatically has PR. However, if a mother and father are not married to each other at the time of the birth, the father does not automatically have PR and will only acquire it if he is named on the birth certificate.

If a father is not on the birth certificate and would like to obtain PR he could:

  • Re-register the child’s birth by agreement with the mother; or
  • Make an application to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

Option 1 and, if the Judge considers the Order appropriate, Option 2 above would give the father PR.

A Declaration Of Parentage

Alternatively, a father can ask for a declaration of parentage. This does what it says on the tin – it declares whether a named individual is the legal parent of another person under English Law. Although it ‘declares’ someone a legal parent, it does not give that person PR, but it can be used as a mechanism for the child’s birth to be re-registered with the father’s details.

What If The Parentage Is Not Accepted?

If parentage is not accepted by both parents, the Court would need to have DNA test results to confirm who the father is before being able to make the declaration.

This is in contrast to obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order where the Court would consider the Re H criteria:

  1. The degree of commitment shown by the father to his child;
  2. The degree of attachment between the father and the child; and
  3. The father’s reasons/motivation for applying for the order;

Following which the Court would then decide whether to accept or reject the application based on what it believes to be in the child’s best interests. If the Court makes the order, the father will have PR as if he was married to the mother at the date of the child’s birth.

The different levels of consideration the Court gives to each application is reflected by the levels of responsibility and authority each order/declaration gives to a father.

How Can Timms Help?

If you have any questions regarding this blog or any family law query, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01332 364436 or via email at l.watson@timms-law.com. Alternatively, you can visit the family law section of our website here.


Leonnie Watson

Leonnie Watson

July 2022

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